by Jim Kacian

Before there was creation,

there was silence.

When creation occurred,

silence was still there, surrounding creation,

the background to creation.

Language arose from silence.

Silence is inseparable from language.

Language is like the rocks

beneath the surface of a body of water

which rise to break the surface at low tide,

only to recede thereafter.

Silence can exist without language,

but language cannot exist without silence.

It is man who exists

between silence and language.

Man comes out of silence into language.

Man comes out of pure being into creation.

Being and silence belong together,

just as language and creation belong together.

It is when man comes into language

that the animals can be named,

that the flowers can be named,

that the trees can be named.

The name of thing is not the thing.

The name of a thing is as far

from being that thing

as language is from being silence.

Every object is possessed of silence.

It is silence which is the secret fund

of its being.

The man who is possessed of silence

moves out through silence

to the outside world.

Silence is central to his being.

This centrality of silence in a man,

in any being, we call “presence.”

What moves us in each being

moves through the silence connecting us.

We are moved before language

tells us what to say.

Haiku is composed of language.

It cannot be composed of silence.

But unlike most language,

haiku does not attempt to oppose silence.

It attempts to point to silence.

Haiku can set into motion

oscillations in the silence between us.

In this way haiku can be poised

between language and silence.

In this way it can suggest

the centrality of silence.

Where silence is shared,

we are all present.

From Presents of Mind, Portland, Oregon: Katsura Press, 1996, and Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2006, second edition with Japanese translation. See also “Naming Haiku.”